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Don’t Let Other Peoples’ Stress Impact on Your Own Resilience

Psychological research has shown that we can pick up negativity, stress, and other unhelpful behaviours in times of uncertainty. Moreover, if someone in your visual field is anxious and highly expressive — either verbally or non-verbally — there’s a high likelihood you’ll experience those emotions as well, negatively impacting your brain’s performance.

Observing someone who is stressed, whether this is a colleague, staff member or a family member, can have an immediate effect upon our own nervous systems. A group of researchers found that 26% of people showed that secondhand stress can have an impact to perceive potential threats in our environment.

One Harvard Business article says that research has found that ‘most people have experienced spending time with someone who triggers a stress response just by walking in the door. This can be a conditioned response from previous interactions but may also be an energetic communication delivered by very gentle shifts in bio-mechanical rhythms such as heart rate or breath rate.’

The cues that cause secondhand stress can be very subtle changes in the people around us at work, yet they can have huge impacts. So how do you manage this to help your resilience?

Tip 1: Give People Time

Don’t let others’ moods, anxiety and stress get the better of you. Keeping a positive mindset is important in helping with positive health outcomes and wellbeing. If people need to express their anxiety, allow some time for this, e.g. five minutes, and then ask for positivity rather than negativity, as having some time to express can help but reinforce the need for more positivity as negative emotions and stress can end up becoming more contagious.

Tip 2. Try an Energiser or the Wellbeing Huddle

Bringing in an energiser, asking for one positive thought from each person, or for comments on what is going well (as per our team wellbeing huddle/tips on energisers blog) can help the team keep focus and positivity.

Tip 3. Change the Response

As the team leader, create positivity, be a wellbeing role model, and keep positive, even when others in the team are being negative. Return it with a smile or nod of understanding, which helps give you a sense of control in the situation. Also, remember that your own mindset can affect others around you so try as much as possible to keep optimistic and be upbeat and energetic.

Tip 4. Keep Your Self-Esteem Positive

One of the tips on resilience against picking up others’ stress is strong and stable self-esteem. The higher your self-esteem, the more likely you will feel that you can deal with whatever situation you face. If you are finding yourself being impacted by others’ moods, stop and remind yourself how things are going well and that you can handle anything that comes your way.

Tip 5. Be Positive and Make This into a Habit

While starting the day or before going into a virtual team meeting or stressful environments, get into the habit of being positive. Research says we should get into daily routines that will help with building our resilience by developing positive psychology habits that can help inoculate your brain against the negative mindsets of others. Examples include:

  1. Practice some mindfulness for 5 minutes

  2. Exercise for 30 minutes

  3. Write down three things for which you are grateful

  4. Writing a two minute email praising someone in the team or team members that you know

  5. Practice something creative

  6. Be reflective (you can use our My Own First Aid toolkit)

Find whatever works for you and can help you form your positive habits, as a positive mindset can improve not just our own lives, but the lives of everyone around us.

Jackie Barringer



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